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Dear Silicon Valley: Stop saying stupid stuff

Matt Asay | May 12, 2016
Silicon Valley has its head so far in the future it can't hear the laughter in response to its over-the-top pronouncements

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

"Disruption" isn't the same as "stupid," but they sometimes sound similar. At least, they do when uttered by a certain strain of Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

This thought struck me while listening to a Valley exec at an enterprise software conference. He stumbled through PowerPoint ("How do you people use this app? I'm a Keynote guy"), agonized over how he could "possibly get used to Exchange after running his startup on Gmail" (his company had recently been acquired by a large software vendor), and generally made it clear that he had no idea how real companies work.

He lives in a bubble that has drones delivering tacos to those not already subsisting on Soylent. He wants to change enterprise computing, but he clearly has no appreciation for the challenges facing enterprises mired in decades of technical debt.

He is, in other words, either the worst or best person to change the world. (My vote: worst.)

Daydreaming the future

Are you still reading? Why aren't you out building a bot? Or building apps for self-driving cars? Or doing Something That MattersTM?

I suspect it's because you have a job -- one that pays you in real dollars, not the venture money that can subsidize a dream long enough to turn it into reality, but is equally as likely to obscure the hard steps necessary to getting companies to pay for your product.

Those "real dollars," as noted, require real customers paying real money. It's not surprising, therefore, that people like Red Hat's Gordon Haff grow frustrated with the Valley's preoccupation with myths: "Will people just stop talking as if the fully autonomous vehicle thing is going to be here in a few years?"

Or take David Bland's Venn diagram to describe the current value of bots:

machine learning bots
David J. Bland

This isn't to suggest that autonomous cars, AI, and other Silicon Valley dreams aren't important. They are. But they're also not what real customers buy today.

Head in the clouds

What about topics that are closer to reality, like cloud computing? I'm an ardent advocate for public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, and I see a future where most workloads will move there. But let's face facts: Most workloads still run in your enterprise's musty data centers, and they will for some time. Public cloud services are booming, yet they're still a tiny fraction of overall IT spending, according to IDC. That's not going to change anytime soon.


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